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Lead Your Team Managing

3 Types of Bad Bosses and How to Deal with Them

3 Types of Bad Bosses and How to Deal with Them
Credit: Peter Bernik/Shutterstock

A difficult boss can make even the best of jobs a nightmare. Between mismanagement, narcissism, micromanagement and absenteeism, there are myriad ways to be a bad boss, and they can all result in poor employee retention.

According to a study from BambooHR, 44 percent of professionals have quit their job because of a difficult boss. With a good leader at the helm, employees tend to be engaged and productive, and contribute to a positive work environment. But employees who dislike their boss dread going into work, are not engaged, and are very likely to seek another job. [Related: The 10 Worst Bad Boss Behaviors]

RiseSmart career coach Michele D'Amico said bad bosses typically fall into three categories: narcissists, hands-off managers and micromanagers. If you have one of these types of bosses, don't call it quits just yet – read these bad boss profiles and learn how to deal with them effectively.

Narcissists often need admiration, can't handle criticism and have a sense of entitlement. These bosses crave praise and acknowledgment while rarely giving it out.

Brandi Britton, a district president at Robert Half staffing firm OfficeTeam, said narcissists are hard to work for because they often undermine the efforts of others and rarely recognize individuals for a job well done. A narcissist often takes credit for employees' ideas and work, but they place blame on others when projects go awry.

Britton suggests the best way of dealing with a narcissist boss is to offer praise and acknowledgment to keep things on an even keel. But don't let them step all over you. "Set boundaries, and let your manager know if there's behavior you can't tolerate," she said.

"The best method of dealing with a narcissist is to keep your distance," said Steve Pritchard, HR consultant for Giffgaff. "Be courteous, professional and friendly, but be guarded. Don't share any personal information that could be used against you, and if they become aggressive or confrontational, do not engage in an argument." 

Pritchard also suggests establishing boundaries and speaking up if they cross the line. "Let them know what they said to you was not acceptable and disrespectful."

Hands-off bosses don't provide much direction and often leave you to your own devices on projects. Some don't understand the day-to-day processes of your job; therefore, they don't provide insight or help. This can be frustrating for employees who feel as though they are on an island and can't reach out for help.

Lois Krause, HR expert at KardasLarson, said the best way to deal with a hands-off boss is to communicate with them often. She suggests making appointments regularly with your boss to talk about questions and concerns.

"To avoid holdups, agree on what items you need your manager's review or approval [on] and what you can drive to completion on your own," Britton added. "Arrange to check in periodically, and don't hesitate to ask clarifying questions as they arise."

Pritchard suggests setting up individual weekly meetings to discuss projects, get direction and air any concerns you have.

"Do your best to keep an ongoing line of communication with them," he said. "Email is the best way to do this. It keeps everything in writing, and you are able to keep a record of how much you have had to chase them for answers and decisions."

Krause noted that micromanagers are difficult because they often think they have to do everything, and they need to feel that they are in control.

"They actually think that is their job," she said. "They are not happy unless they correct your work."  

Employees should always communicate with their managers, but it's especially important to do so with micromanagers, since they tend to be perfectionists with trust issues.

"Adopt a no-surprises philosophy," said Phil La Duke, global principle consultant at ERM. "Immediately notify your boss if something has gone wrong, or if you talked to someone about the project – micromanagers can be a little paranoid." La Duke recommended staying sharp, hitting deadlines, and avoiding copping an attitude in response to your boss's apparent lack of trust.

"Remember that you are there to support the boss," added D'Amico, "no matter what [their] managerial style is."

1. Always communicate. Communication is key in business. It's also critical for keeping a boss happy – no matter how great or difficult they are.

"Use email to clarify what the boss is asking you to do, and keep them in the loop," said D'Amico.

2. Document conversations. D'Amico also recommends documenting conversations. This is helpful for clarification later or if you want to seek help from the human resources department.

3. Stand up for yourself. If your boss starts to act like a bully, it's important to stand up for yourself and present yourself coolly but confidently, said Britton.  

"Explain the rationale for your decisions and anticipate [their] questions so you're prepared to argue your stance," she said. "This type of boss tends to relent after hearing the voice of reason."

4. Try to empathize with your boss. Is this their first time as a boss? Are they overwhelmed with their current position? Pritchard suggests trying to think about why your boss acts the way they do. Most of the time, these bosses don't know they are bad bosses.

5. Have a meeting with HR. "If you've done everything you can to improve a challenging situation with your manager and nothing changes, speak with your HR department to discuss ways to handle the situation," said Britton.

6. Have an exit interview. If you're unable to handle your boss and ultimately decide to leave the company, try to set up an exit interview with HR. Your feedback could save another employee the hassle of dealing with a bad boss.  

"Be honest in relaying your feedback, but keep it constructive and professional," Britton said. "Your comments and suggestions could potentially result in positive change."

Additional reporting by Saige Driver. Some interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Kiely Kuligowski

Kiely is a staff writer based in New York City. She worked as a marketing copywriter after graduating with her bachelor’s in English from Miami University (OH) and is now embracing her hipster side as a new resident of Brooklyn. You can reach her on Twitter or by email.